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Q & A with Santa Ana candidates for Ward 1 council seat

Four candidates are seeking to represent Ward 1 in the Santa Ana City Council election Nov. 3.

They are Planning Commissioners Cynthia Contreras, who works for the Orange County Probation Department, and Thai Viet Phan, an attorney, along with Thomas Anthony Gordon, a school facilities manager, and Tony Adame, a local entrepreneur and chief financial officer of a hair pomade company.

RELATED: In Santa Ana’s Ward 1, issues include business, homelessness and open space

Adame, Contreras and Phan replied to a questionnaire sent by the Register. Here are their responses:

Q. What’s a top issue in the city and, if elected, how do you plan to address it? (75 words max)

Adame: The root of many of our issues with crime, homelessness, substance abuse and overcrowding stem from our investments into our neighborhoods, particularly as it relates to our youth. My success in Santa Ana is a direct product of the community programs that were available to my low-income family growing up. These programs have been defunded and it has had a very negative effect on our communities. Supporting our families in need creates safer neighborhoods.

Contreras: As someone who works in public safety, I’ve seen the numbers rise in domestic violence, car street racing and petty crimes during COVID, we must redouble our efforts to stop these incidents from occurring. We have a Family Justice Center that provides a safe haven for victims of abuse and domestic violence, we must highlight this resource with our residents.  We must go back to community policing in our neighborhoods and improve community/police relations to rebuild trust.

Phan: Santa Ana residents have long fought for public safety improvements – decreasing 911 response times, more accountability, and more trust between our officers and residents. I have publicly advocated for an oversight commission and reviewing/revising our internal policies and procedures, especially with internal affairs. I want us to revamp our community policing program to build trust, transparency and responsiveness. Officers have the resources they requested and it’s time to deliver on their commitment to serve residents.

Q. What are your plans for the city’s recovery from the pandemic? Please be specific on any expenses you would cut, or how you would bring in new revenue. 

Adame: As a business owner, I know Santa Ana has famously been un-creative in how it attracts and keeps new business. I will accommodate businesses more freedom to operate outdoors, for instance. Our city’s slow reaction has negatively impacted our business owners and incoming tax revenue. I will cut fees for new business startups and streamline the processes to open and operate a business by making use of online portals as other surrounding cities already have.

Contreras: I will support the Cares Act dollars plan the city has in place and work with our business chambers to guide us with the needs and how we can support small businesses.  We also need to work on providing workforce training to help families get back on their feet.

Phan: I would simplify, clarify and lower the cost and process of opening businesses in the city by providing an easy-to-access online resource. I would also promote and expand legal cannabis, which not only decreases the presence of illegal cannabis, but provides good-paying jobs for residents and brings in additional revenue. We must invest in small mom-and-pop shops, which can draw in more visitors looking for culture and authenticity in a sea of chain stores.

Q. What do you want to see in the Willowick Golf Course land? Do you support a majority of the land be designated for open space and affordable housing or for commercial development (hotels, stadium, etc)? Please be specific. 

Adame: There is no reason we could not have a mixed-use approach of open space, affordable housing and commercial development. 120 acres affords us the opportunity to support housing options that will help alleviate overcrowding which the surrounding neighborhoods are currently being heavily impacted by, while including commercial space that is more profitable to developers. My belief is that it is worth fighting for the needs of the existing surrounding community that I belong to.

Contreras:  I support open space and that is why my priority would be a sports park that includes the following along with community input: Olympic-size pool, basketball courts, baseball fields, tennis courts, football field with a track, volleyball courts, soccer fields, walk paths, picnic areas and to bring it all together a community center that can become the hub of the neighborhood for multi-purposes that will serve all families.  After this, I am open to considering affordable housing with mix use.

Phan: I reject the notion that the Willowick Golf Course land can only be one thing or another – we can have open space, boutique mom-and-pop shops, and mixed-housing developments. This would not only create more housing for residents, but would give more opportunities for small businesses near the streetcar and bring in much-needed revenue. Finally, open space would benefit our park-poor city and serve residents in nearby neighborhoods.

Q. Your thoughts on future developments, state-mandated housing goals and affordable housing in Santa Ana? 

Adame: Current politicians in Santa Ana now are quick to point out that Santa Ana has reached it’s state-mandated quota of affordable housing goals, but they ignore the fact that our needs in Santa Ana are much different from what the state expects or what our neighbors have done. I will do more, primarily in our more heavily-impacted areas of Santa Ana, to attract developers that are willing have a community-based approach to building projects.

Contreras: As vice chair on the Planning Commission, I have voted for numerous housing options. Affordable, market rate and veteran housing.  Our city has exceeded the state RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Assessment) housing numbers and has attempted to balance affordable with market-rate housing. As proof of the exciting new housing options, in Ward 1 along Harbor Boulevard, one can see the new housing and the up-and-coming housing and mixed-use projects that are coming.  I will continue to bring responsible development to our city.

Phan: Santa Ana has continuously met our RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Assessment) goals at all levels. I support more housing development, particularly mixed-use developments that also bring in more commercial and retail revenue, increasing revenues for the city, and making benefits more accessible for residents. I also strongly support medium density development, such as townhomes and duplexes, which help keep the American Dream within reach for residents. Other cities need to step up and help solve the housing crisis.

Q. Santa Ana leaders and residents have complained that the city has taken on an unfair share of Orange County’s homeless population. How would you address this issue? 

Adame: It’s no secret, and I have seen for myself, that our neighboring cities have “dropped-off” those that are homeless and have mental-health issues into our neighborhoods. Judge Carter rightfully pointed this out and I am in full support of Santa Ana now taking legal action to fix the imbalance of responsibility within the county. I will continue that fight and will work closely with our law enforcement to better serve our current homeless population.

Contreras: I thank our council for doing everything they could to highlight the homeless problem, and through lawsuits, to hold surrounding cities accountable to do their fair share. Santa Ana has enough shelters; we don’t need more. That is why I am opposed to the Yale Shelter in Ward 1.  I hold the county accountable for that misstep. I will work with the county to (ensure) cities that have not done their share are held accountable.

Phan: We have definitely done more than our fair share, and I support aggressive litigation against the County of Orange for its utter failure to adequately address the homelessness crisis. The county has the money, the ability, but lacks the political will. In fact, we’ve seen the county take swift and decisive action in opening the Joplin Youth Center as a shelter for at-risk residents who are homeless. The county and other cities must step up.

Q. There’s been criticism that the POA has undue power in City Hall, pushing for police pay raises and then backing a successful recall against a councilwoman who voted against those pay raises. What are your thoughts on this?

Adame: There are many labor unions and other special interest groups that have far too much influence on City Hall and, in effect, the daily lives of ordinary Santaneros. Although I plan to work hand-in-hand with our labor unions to create a better functioning government, I have personally NOT accepted money or endorsements from ANY unions as to remain free from ties, conflicts or self-interest.

Contreras: As we all can agree, we need public safety as we heard on Connect to Council.  We need to re-position current funding toward community policing.  Due to COVID, I was happy to see that the POA agreed to defer some of the raises.  As to your reference to undue influence, it is only if the elected allows it to be.

Phan: Now that the city has districted elections, the influence of any particular group will change. First, the recalled official wasn’t the only person who voted against the raises, but voters recalled her  …  while I have been vocal regarding the budget, I hope to work with both our residents and officers to improve public safety for all.

Source: Orange County Register

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